Slogan Clothing - A Fashion History
There is no denying that slogan clothing is huge right now, and doesn't show any signs of slowing down anytime soon. It is commonly regarded that slogan clothing first made it's stamp on fashion in the 1980s, but it actually dates much further back to the 1960s. Let's take a look at the history of slogan clothing and where this fashion phenomenon began...
In 1963, Tommy Roberts opened a store named Kleptomania on Carnaby St in London. This was a quirky store selling non-wearable collectables such as vintage photographs, art, homeware and erotica. The store was a huge hit with the explosion of free love and pop culture and Tommy thought that more wearable art would be welcomed too. He enlisted the help of his friend, designer Roger Lunn, to create a collection of slogan and motif t-shirts that proved a massive hit with the fashionistas of London.
Lunn and Roberts went on to create the clothing brand Mr Freedom, whose boutique took over from Kleptomania and was an eclectic and off the wall fusion of art, fashion, punk and pop culture. Shop fittings were never 'normal' - you would find inflatable sex dolls instead of ordinary mannequins and the decor was loud, brash and dripping with kitsch. The shop was once described as having "unquenchable enthusiasm for all things bright and in outrageously bad taste" which was exactly how they liked it. They also had a huge celebrity following including the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Elton John, The Rolling Stones and The Who. Pretty soon the boutique was full of glam rock fashion including rocket ship boots, satin jackets and huge statement belt buckles. Roberts was granted an exclusive license from Disney to create t-shirts featuring their weird and wonderful cartoon characters. Nobody had thought of Disney in a fashion context before this, but it was a smart move that would become a staple of fashion for many decades to come. They also brought out a zodiac range of tees, and this image of Mick Jagger wearing one was a huge step for the brand, sales of these t-shirts really helped to finance the whole business. Who said that fashion influencers were a new thing?!
It's fair to say that Mr Freedom was the pioneer brand for slogan t-shirts and slogan clothing, bringing the fashion through to the 1970s. But in the early 1980s, the statement slogan t-shirt craze would be re-ignited by the great Katharine Hamnett but his time around, things were a little more political. She viewed her statement t-shirts as a way to project a message - "If you want to get the message out there, you should print it in giant letters on a t-shirt." Hamnett's first creation was launched in 1983, featuring the now infamous CHOOSE LIFE slogan. This was making a statement against war and destruction, having been inspired by a Buddhist exhibit. Once again, celebrity endorsement and influence was key to her orbital success, when George Michael wore the t-shirt in the music video for Wham's 'Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go'. It became an iconic must-have item for both men and women and is still a best seller almost 40 years later.
Hamnett was a political activist as well as an influential fashion designer. In 1989 she began to research into the usage of pesticides in cotton-growing regions and subsequent links with poisoning. She was also a huge campaigner against sweatshops being used in the fashion industry and wanted to make real change. Back when Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister, Hamnett met with her and shook her hand whilst wearing a t-shirt stating "58% DON'T WANT PERSHING". This was in reference to public opposition for Pershing missiles to be based here. Later, in 2003, models for Katharine Hamnett wore STOP WAR, BLAIR OUT t-shirts as the invasion of Iraq was on the cards for Britain. In more recent years she has been more involved in using fashion for political causes, including the campaign for nuclear disarmament and the refugee crisis. Hamnett continues to produce thought provoking statement fashion under strict ethical guidelines and has also been awarded a CBE for services to the fashion industry.
Fast forward to 2006, and we saw a whole new and much more playful take on the slogan-tshirt from designer Henry Holland. Holland himself said " Hamnett's t-shirts were very much about an ethical message or a political message. Mine are much more a bit of fun, a bit tongue-in-cheek and a way for the fashion industry to laugh at itself." His 2006 collection showcased what he called the 'fashion groupie' t-shirts, each with a witty rhyming slogan poking fun at the industry. Some of the slogans included "I'll show you who's boss Kate Moss", "Suck on my toe Pheobe Philo" and "Do me daily Christoper Bailey".
In 2017, iconic fashion house Dior came under fire shortly after they released their feminist slogan t-shirt. The plain white cotton tee was printed with the text "WE SHOULD ALL BE FEMINISTS" which was created by Maria Grazia Chiuri - Dior's first female artistic director. She really wanted to make her mark with a very basic statement piece, and took her inspiration from the book of the same name by feminist author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Dior were praised for the design, but were heavily criticised at the £500 price tag for a simple cotton t-shirt. The backlash forced them to donate a portion of sales revenue to Rihanna's non-for-profit organisation - The Clara Lionel Foundation.
The more recent re-surge of slogan clothing has certainly been boosted by the national and international lock-downs following the Covid-19 pandemic. From early 2020, more time at home and less time at work or anywhere social, has seen a huge rise in popularity of casual clothing and loungewear. This means we have been buying more t-shirts, sweatshirts and jogging bottoms than ever before, and injecting some personality into them is super important. There were also messages of love, thanks and hope that found their way onto our clothing.
This month at My Vintage, we launched our very own line of slogan clothing and so far the reaction has been fantastic! Of course our main passion lies with vintage clothing and vintage fashion, but as a true creative it has been so fun and fulfilling to create my own designs and see them come to life. I get so excited whenever you send me your pics wearing vintage clothes you have bought from us, but that excitement is even more intense when I see you wearing something that actually came out of my own brain! So far we have added a number of slogan t-shirts and slogan sweatshirts to the website as well as some cute slogan mugs and bags. I can exclusively reveal that not only do we have more designs on the way, but we also have some wall art and more accessories and clothing in the pipeline too.
It's been amazing to get such great feedback already and we can't wait to show you more of what we have in store. The image above will take you to our MV Designs department where you will find all our designs as and when they happen. As always, I love to hear your thoughts so do let me know what you think and of course if there is anything you would like to see on a t-shirt, sweatshirt, dress or even a pair of leggings soon! Our designs are quirky and sassy, often focusing on self love and empowerment as well as just good ol' humour and relatability. All our MV Designs are currently made to order so please allow a longer delivery time on these. This is detailed on each of the item pages.
One of the most popular sweatshirts so far has to be the Ewww, People design! Here is the gorgeous Vanessa wearing hers in baby pink...
I hope you love the designs so far and I can't wait to show you more!
Until next time
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